LIST CANDIDATE: GOD TOLD ME TO (1976)

AKA Demon; God Told Me to Kill

DIRECTED BY: Larry Cohen

FEATURING: Tony Lo Bianco, Richard Lynch, Andy Kaufman, Deborah Raffin, Sandy Dennis, Sylvia Sidney, Sam Levene, Mike Kellin

PLOT: A rash of murders are committed by people who all give “God told me to do it” as their only motive. A New York City police detective must find out why.

Still from God Told Me To (1975)
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: A conventionally produced movie, God Told Me To has a bizarre story featuring some very strange characters, including an extraterrestrial man with a face that nobody can see clearly and a vagina in his ribcage.

COMMENTS: In this complex occult/sci-fi thriller, Tony Lo Bianco (The French Connection, The 7-Ups) plays police Lieutenant Nicholas, who unravels a mysterious spree of killings committed by fellow New Yorkers from all walks of life. Each claim that God compelled them to commit the crimes  Many kill themselves or die after immediately after making the the revelation, complicating Nicholas’ job.

The film opens with a sniper perched on a rooftop water tower. After he shoots random people in the street,  Nicholas climbs up to talk to him and the man jumps to his death.  Nicholas is contacted by a representative of a sinister cult who seems to understand what is behind the crimes. While the cop tries to track down the cult members, the investigation takes him on a twisted journey into the past, including, to his surprise, his own past as he strives to solve this dark and obfuscated mystery. Nothing is as it appears to be. As he soon discovers, Lt. Nicholas is also not who or what he seems to be either.

While he attempts to unravel the puzzle behind the killings, Nicholas investigates his own birth as well as other strange phenomenon from bygone years. The answer to the riddle is morbidly fascinating. God Told Me To is one of those unique, non-formulaic 1970’s films that just aren’t made anymore.

The enigmatic Richard Lynch (Bad Dreams) has one of his most interesting and bizarre roles ever in this exciting and odd film. The piece features an early, rare cinematic appearance by Andy Kaufman in a non comedic role.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“This cult-fave Larry Cohen epic, features his trademark NYC locations, vividly drawn characters, realistically handled situations and dialogue, and one hell of a weird premise.”—VideoHound’s Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics

366 EXLUSIVE: HALLOW’S DANCE

We are pleased to debut James Mannan and Robbin Panet’s short film “Hallow’s Dance” on the web.  Although there is a mild Halloween theme to the film, Hallow’s Dance should not be confused with a horror film.  It is in fact a drama, with the only horror being moral horror at the treatment of Frank/Mom.  Co-directed by Robbin Panet and James Mannan, it co-stars 366 scribe Alfred Eaker along with Jason Hignite, Chelsea Rogers, and Terry Dellinger.  It contains very mild scenes of suggestive sexuality.  The weird part is the short, experimental dream sequence which ends the film, which is shot in black and white with streaming beams of light, accompanied by a catchy organ tune.  The short runs approximately 14 minutes.

At the producers’ request, this film will not be released to YouTube or other video hosting sites, and will be available here for one month only.

[Our license to display “Hallow’s Dance” has expired. We will inform you if this film is released, on DVD or otherwise, in the future.]

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

A couple of announcements: today is your last day to view the experimental short film 9 (not related to the Shane Acker animated feature).  Tomorrow we will remove it, but it will be replaced with another 366 Exclusive short film.

In other news, thanks to Cameron, we now have our own 366 Weird Movies YouTube page, although it’s still in development.  You won’t find much there that you wouldn’t find here, but that could change in the future.

Expect to see reviews of Larry Cohen’s wacky genre mix God Told Me To [AKA Demon] (1976) next week, along with a review of Harry Kümel’s nearly forgotten Malpertuis, and a surprise or two.

For the weirdest search term used to locate the site last week, we’ll go with “Who wrote the diary? Why did Robin decided to write a diary?”  But an honorable mention goes to “Using the following steps write an hour by hour diary of a festival,” since two people apparently used this exact same term to find the site, probably for the same homework assignment.

We know we’ve been derelict in logging in reader reviews, and promise to be better about it—starting next week.  The ever-growing reader-suggested review queue looks like this: Cowards Bend the Knee (substituted for the unavailable Angel’s Egg), Greasers Palace (substituted for Institute Benjamenta), Pan’s Labyrinth, Ex Drummer, Waking Life, Survive Style 5+, The Dark Backward, The Short Films of David Lynch, Santa Sangre, Dead Man, Inland Empire, Monday (assuming I can find an English language version), The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Barton Fink, What? (Diary of Forbidden Dreams), Meatball Machine, Xtro, and Basket Case.

OOIOO – “UMO”

OOIOO is an all-female avant-garde music group from Japan. Their style is very hard to describe, because it varies so much. Many of their songs have a soothing, majestic feel to them, while this song is strongly tribal based. One thing is for certain, they can move a crowd. Their strong rhythm section compels their listeners to dance.

Directed by Shoji Goto, this psychedelic video focuses on the concept of communication with nature. If drum circles in the forest are your thing, you should most definitely watch this video. If they’re not… well, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR 10/9/09

A look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.

Another very weak week for the weird, with nothing odd in theaters (unless you live in NYC), and no bizarre DVD releases (although there is a very welcome addition to the Blu-ray ranks).

SCREENINGS (NEW YORK CITY, ANGELIKAS FILM CENTER)

Bronson (2008):  Story about a violent British bank robber who is locked up in solitary confinement for 30 years; in prison, he transforms himself into the mythical persona “Charles Bronson.”  Loosely based on the true story of one of Britain’s most violent criminals, more than one critic has compared it to A Clockwork Orange (if for no other reason, then for its mixture of extreme violence and classical music).  Already on DVD in the UK, but it does not appear to be available in Region 1 yet.  Bronson official site.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Audition (1999) (Collector’s Edition): Perhaps Japanese shockmeister Takeshi Miike’s greatest achievement, this tale of a lonely businessman who gets more than he asked for when he looks for love by staging auditions for a fake movie has a climax that’s both shatteringly surreal and blood-curdlingly gory and extreme.  This 2-disc Blu-ray release contains full commentary by Miike (the DVD release only had commentary during the key sequence) explaining the film along with screenwriter Daisuke Tengan, and more than 90 minutes of new interviews with cast and crew on Disc 2. Buy from Amazon.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

THE WILD AND ZANY WORLD OF TODD M. COE

Todd M. Coe is one of those secret finds that is all too tempting to keep secret.

Todd M CoeTodd’s animated shorts evoke the decade of the 1970’s, which  he is hopelessly in love with.  Drive-in commercials, exploitation, cheesy horror, 70’s adult  posters, variety show television specials, low budget spaghetti westerns, robots, the rock group Kiss, Aaron Spelling cop shows, feathered hair, plaid bell bottoms, and, of course animation are all manna from pop culture heaven for him.

Todd could undoubtedly add a few thousand items from that decade to the list, such as one of his favorites (and the delightfully of it’s period) Paul Lynde Halloween Special ,with Donnie and Marie Osmond, Mrs. Brady, Witchie Poo and Billy Barty all trading groan worthy barbs with the inimitable and much missed Mr. Lynde. Todd discussed this perennial favorite in a series of emails and his enthusiasm was admittedly infectious.

Todd is a post-modern, eclectic “slapstick surrealist”.  His four shorts can be seen on both youtube (his channel is called school pizza) and on his website—http://www.toddmcoe.com/—where you can also view his numerous illustrations, drawings and paintings.

Todd pours his obvious love of subject into all of his amazingly detailed work and, boy does he pour it on, like a good oozing heap of Aunt Jemima syrup.

Taking a tour through Todd’s website is an inspiration. After a near fatal overdose from the increasingly bland overkill of Tim Burton’s monotonous school of animation, or even more monotonous, bland Japanese Animation, Todd’s work is a much needed breath of fresh red, white and blue air.

Don’t be surprised to find yourself humming the Love American Style and SchoolHouse Rock’s Conjunction Junction theme songs as you take the Todd M. Coe ride.

I certainly did, and now I’m really fighting the urge to throw in a video of the Banana Splits, locating my 45 record of Styx’s Mr. Roboto, re-read my Green Lantern comics, fall in love with the Farrah posterall over again (God bless that angel’s soul), take a whack at the etch a sketch, and pour myself a big bowl of Crisp cereal. I doubt I win that fight.

Thank you much Mr. Coe.

CAPSULE: 9 (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Shane Acker

FEATURING: Voices of ,

PLOT:  Nine robotic ragdolls fight killer machines in a post-human, post-apocalyptic world.

Still from 9 (2009)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: 9 is a visually thrilling movie set in a unique, humanless universe; with a more careful and detailed exploration of that world, the flick could have struck a mildly weird chord.  As it is, the movie is mostly concerned with looking gorgeous (which it does) and providing the kiddies with rambunctious action sequences than it is in digging deep into the mysteries of its fascinating milieu.

COMMENTS:  People constantly, and rightfully, complain about Hollywood’s lack of originality in plots; by the time a screenwriter’s fresh idea makes its way through the suit mill, strong and unique flavors have been ground out of it, replaced with formula salt. Sloppy, rote plotting, climaxing in a well-worn and obvious moral, is so omnipresent in Hollywood product that it seldom raises a critical eyebrow. That is, until something as visually inventive as 9 appears on the screen, when suddenly the relative poverty of imagination of the typical adventure script is thrown into stark relief. 9 is set in a brilliantly realized earth-tone post-apocalypse dominated by bombed-out buildings littered with ruined bric-a-brack. The animation is obviously influenced by Tim Burton disciple Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline), but in its brooding darkness and danger it brings to mind a more fluid and rational-minded version of or the Brothers Quay. Flashbacks of the man vs. machine war that wiped out humanity look like a 1940s propaganda film attacked by H.G. Wells’ Martians (they’re even in glorious black and white).

Such a visually inventive world promises, and deserves, to be the backdrop for an equally imaginative story, and here is where 9 falls apart. The characters (known only by number) are quickly and archetypically sketched, but that’s not a major problem; it’s satisfying enough to know that 1 is a fatally conservative leader, 6 is a visionary artist, 7 is a brash warrior, and so on down the line. The major problem is that there is little sense to the burlap doll’s very existence; they fight nightmarish robotic cats and an all-seeing globe which is capable (for some reason) of sucking out their little souls, but it seems like they should be solving the riddle of their existence. They do so, but when they get the answer, it’s a major letdown. The biggest plot problem isn’t that the Scientist created both the nine ragdolls and the beast that dogs them; it’s that, in an epic fit of absentmindedness, he imbued the same gizmo with the power both to activate the apocalypse and provide the last hope of humanity. It’s a bizarre and confusing plan (and for once, I don’t mean that as a compliment), and it’s based on some awfully hokey metaphysics that invokes the idea that if you create a device that shoots souls into the sky, it will eventually rain life-giving amoebas. The truth is, the nine exist in a script that needs menacing robots for them to fight with broken pocketknife blades as big as broadswords; therefore, these evil machines exist, and for no other convincing reason. The script isn’t interested in fleshing out this world or resolving these paradoxes, but only in getting us to the next action sequence or comforting cliche as quickly as possible. In the end, that leaves us with a film that, perhaps unfairly, disappoints us, because it has so much imaginative potential. We may be more forgiving towards Hollywood fare that aims no higher than to provide us with eighty minutes of eye candy and an injection of vicarious adrenaline, and squarely hits its mark.

Acker’s film is an Internet success story. Birthed as an eleven minute short film, 9 was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2005, but it was YouTube viewings that created the huge advance buzz for the feature version. The short contained no dialogue—only electronica, metallic battle sounds, and weird ambient noise—and also reveals none of the unsatisfactory backstory. It was far more mysterious, and a more impressive artistic achievement. When Tim Burton decided to adopt the film and serve as producer (by slapping his ticket-selling name on it), the project’s Hollywood credibility went through the roof—and the story was ground into the Hollywood scriptwriting gears.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Probably the strangest animated feature to appear since Coraline… [it has] the feeling of a perversely fascinating ballet mécanique—a movie that literally expends with humans in the way that Hollywood blockbusters have been figuratively doing for years.”–Scott Foundas, The Village Voice (contemporaneous)

Celebrating the cinematically surreal, bizarre, cult, oddball, fantastique, strange, psychedelic, and the just plain WEIRD!